Shakedown + 20: Remembering the Loma Prieta Quake of 1989. Today's Edition: Mama Mia.

Categories: Local News

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​For those who lived through it, it's hard to believe that, come Oct. 17, it'll be 20 years since sportscaster Al Michaels shouted "Tell ya what, we're having an earth...", triggering a massive earthquake that devastated the Bay Area.

While professional journalism critics loathe the anniversary story, we're going to tell them to get stuffed (this time) because we'd rather print longtime locals' harrowing tales. Your humble narrator's isn't much: I tossed the phone over my shoulder -- it miraculously landed on the receiver -- and stood under a door. The end.

But, though I may be biased, I think my mother has a hell of a story to tell. After all, she was on the lower deck of the Bay Bridge -- roughly half a mile from the island and less than a mile from the portion that collapsed -- and had to get out of the car and run like hell. So I'll let Loretta Eskenazi write this article for me:

I had just felt what it was like to be clothes tumble-drying in the old Kenmore. My little white Toyota gyrated while I rationalized away a 7.1 earthquake. "It's a flat tire! It's two flat tires! How many Goddamn flat tires could it be? Maybe I need a tune-up?" My favorite old-time rock station just went dead on the radio. A song I knew all the words to was no longer to be heard in my bucking Camry.

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​My first instinct was to put her in reverse and back up at least until North Beach. But the only direction open to me was forward to the East Bay. I was really quite impressed that the bridge was still standing. It had always seemed to me like the mega-version of the erector set my cousin Herb gave me for my seventh birthday. I stepped heavily on the gas pedal to get the journey over and done with as fast as possible. Perhaps this big erector set was still thinking it over? I must get home to the East Bay to watch the World Series with the guys. Isn't that why I left the office early? Why would I be on this toy at 5:04 PM if it weren't for the Series?

Then the traffic, everyone with a heavy foot on the gas pedal, came to a jolting halt. The air had waves of stinking fuel rising from the stopped cars, motors still running. Many people, led by a man driving a motorcycle, came running towards us waving their arms and screaming , "Run, the bridge is collapsing!" The majority of people I saw sitting in their cars observing this remained sitting in their cars in disbelief or fear, whatever. Perhaps if they disbelieved hard enough it would go away. They'd be on their way home to catch the Series. I was more realistic, being more experienced, having a cousin Herb who once gave me an erector set a long time ago.


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